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Author Topic: Information and SNAFU's  (Read 424 times)

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Offline choppinlt

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Information and SNAFU's
« on: October 03, 2017, 07:14:11 PM »
As I mentioned in Sailor Malan's thread, I have been pondering some big picture game concepts. So his thread is a perfect segue to this thread:

As players we have the luxury of a birds-eye view. We can quickly and efficiently review and evaluate a situation and react accordingly. This does NOT represent the reality of military command and control. Therefore I have been giving serious consideration to delaying information to players. This is part of the beauty of using a computer to represent these factors, that are not easliy accomplished by boardgames and miniatures. You can see that after action reports are delayed with the staff reports each turn in our ongoing scenario. Furthermore, I am strongly considering delaying the map information too. Players will see a map that may be a few hours out of date. Many factors will dicate how efficiently and effectively information will travel. Additionally, some of the information presented to players may be incorrect...both enemy and friendly units! The quality of information will reflect national abilities regarding information flow, as well as the qualities of the troops themselves and their condition. For example, if you are commanding a division and your HQ is under direct attack, don't expect an accurate assessment of the divisional zone other than what is right in front of the HQ. Or if you are commanding a division and a regiment HQ gets disrupted somehow, you can't expect to get a good assessment of what is happening with the entire regiment. In this way I am hoping to limit the information to players...and this directly represents the limitations of C2 and the guesswork that went in to planning and execution. As mentioned, I am hoping that this will allow for "getting in the enemy's decision loop". Is this a good idea? Will it turn players off, or make the experience more intriguing? It would be great to have your feedback, thoughts and ideas on this.

On a related note, SNAFU's were a real factor that had to be considered when developing plans for any operation. They happen at all levels and no one was immune though it certainly was less likely to happen with troops with greater experience and solid leadership. And so it will be reflected with TO. Did every unit receive orders when sent? Did every unit interpret those orders correctly? Did every unit interpret their position on the map correctly? These questions are rhetorical as we all know the answer to this, and these are the type of SNAFU's I am talking about incorporating in to TO. Basically every time a unit is given orders, something could happen. Furthermore, combat makes people edgy (go figure!), so units may react with additional movement after an engagement. I'm not meaning drastic movement when they start marching to the back corner of the map, but a unit may withdraw a few hundred extra meters after combat. This can represent a number of different things like a decision from the unit commander based on local conditions/circumstances, OR troops that lost a bit of their nerve. It should make things less mechanical. Because you have a "staff", they will inform us when a SNAFU is discovered, and the offending units are marked with an orange "!" to denote them. The player can then choose what they want to do...if anything. The "!" disappears upon execution of the next turn. The purpose is to allow the game to inform and ID when things are exactly as planned to prevent what I see is micromanagement of unit dispositions. In other words players don't have to go through an exhaustive check every turn to see if anything went wrong. Furthermore, more time given to planning, prep and execution will reduce the chance of a SNAFU, and/or allow for identification and correction prior to the kickoff of events. Does all of this make sense? Please ask questions and please give me your thoughts, ideas, and feedback.

One potential consideration with these concepts will be tactical battle resolution. Engagement OOB's presented to players would be accurate for the tactical battle, but the information might provide clues or info to players that they may not otherwise have access to yet. Personally I don't see this as a major issue, but I want your feedback. What other potential issues do you see?

Offline Asid

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Re: Information and SNAFU's
« Reply #1 on: October 03, 2017, 10:24:20 PM »
These are great ideas. I think they will greatly add to the realism and immersion. Make it feel more organic. Very few games do good fog of war and order delays. If done correctly then this is a big plus for ToO  :notworthy

I play Scourge of War Waterloo from the position of general in the saddle, online with my friends. If I want to see something then I have to move to or near that location and get an obstructed view. What's on the other side of the ridge, forest? Go and see or receive a report on the area from a human player. When I send a command, I compose the dispatch and a courier takes it. It takes time for the message to arrive. The message may never arrive because it was intercepted or it may arrive to late. All of this makes for an excellent battle, time after time. Confusion, fog of war, order delay.......Very immersive and fun.  :thumbsup

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Offline choppinlt

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Re: Information and SNAFU's
« Reply #2 on: October 04, 2017, 02:16:53 PM »
Great!  :) I realize the ideas aren't necessarily groundbreaking, but i want some feedback or any brainstorming on the topic. Fog of war was always going to be present with the lack of detailed enemy positions, but taking it a step further regarding information and positions of your own forces is something I havn't seen much. So you could think of the game map as the map of your battle staff updated with the best information they have available, which may not reflect the full reality of the situation. I think it adds to the challenge and is a very real way to reflect the command and control. Imagine 1940 France when as an Allied player you were seeing one thing on the map, but knew your information was woefully out of date.You issue orders to units that appear to be standing by, but have already been overrun or in the middle of an engagement...

Asid, it is interesting you bring up Napoleonics. I have not played Scourge of Waterloo, but when I was a wee lad I played a lot of Napoleonics with my brother and older cousins with miniatures. We used the Empire rule system. One of the key aspects of the game was issuing and receiving orders. I still remember dicing to issue orders and feeling frustrated that a key portion of my forces were just hanging out.  >:( Meahwhile, my opponent was dealing with similar issues. That was my first real exposure to a more detailed command and control system, and like you mentioned it added to the reality and immersion of the game.
« Last Edit: October 04, 2017, 04:06:41 PM by choppinlt »

Offline A Canadian Cat

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Re: Information and SNAFU's
« Reply #3 on: October 04, 2017, 03:47:48 PM »
As players we have the luxury of a birds-eye view. We can quickly and efficiently review and evaluate a situation and react accordingly. This does NOT represent the reality of military command and control. Therefore I have been giving serious consideration to delaying information to players. This is part of the beauty of using a computer to represent these factors, that are not easliy accomplished by boardgames and miniatures. You can see that after action reports are delayed with the staff reports each turn in our ongoing scenario. Furthermore, I am strongly considering delaying the map information too. Players will see a map that may be a few hours out of date. Many factors will dicate how efficiently and effectively information will travel. Additionally, some of the information presented to players may be incorrect...both enemy and friendly units!

Yes, IMHO this is a must. This is the huge advantage that computers give us - and automatic truly unbiased umpire. I have played miniatures and cardboard hex games and the absolute biggest step up when playing with the computer is it can track reality and present some portion of that to both players so neither side knows what is going on in perfect detail.

<snip>As mentioned, I am hoping that this will allow for "getting in the enemy's decision loop".

Exactly - just the right approach

Is this a good idea?

Yes, without question. Don't let anyone tell you different  ;D

Will it turn players off, or make the experience more intriguing? It would be great to have your feedback, thoughts and ideas on this.

No question some will be very annoyed. Those that play RTS games  ;) . Those of us that play war games will love it. Although to be fair there will be plenty of bitching from some of us when we loose.  :) And I am sure plenty of discussion about the choices you make and why and it is supportable and on and on. But you expected that right  8)

Offline choppinlt

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Re: Information and SNAFU's
« Reply #4 on: October 04, 2017, 07:17:30 PM »
Thanks Cat!  :) Agreed, only the computer allows for an efficient and totally unbiased umpire. What I would like to do is incorporate some sort of playback with 3 overlays: 1 for each side and then 1 for what actually happened. This is a "nice" feature, but not a priority... I have mentioned this before, but ideas far outpace production and I don't want to "kitchen sink" this game.

No question some will be very annoyed. Those that play RTS games  ;) . Those of us that play war games will love it. Although to be fair there will be plenty of bitching from some of us when we loose.  :) And I am sure plenty of discussion about the choices you make and why and it is supportable and on and on. But you expected that right  8)
OK, I have to admit that you cracked me up with this one.  :laughroll Yes, the wargaming crowd is quite the opinionated bunch...and yes, I do quite expect that, especially when we put something on the market! Since we have a more select crowd at the moment and we are talking conceptually, I figure this would be a good time to bring this up.

Just to be clear, I very much like the thought of "true" fog when it comes to enemy and friendly unit conditions/positions, but I wanted to hear people's thoughts and comments like you are doing. I also wanted to allow for expression of any particular concerns or additional ideas around the topic too.

The idea for this discussion came to mind because I have been considering the impact of Leadership in ToO. For example, what does a Leadership rating of +2 mean for your corps commander? Is it really going to cause a specific battalion to fight better in a specific engagement? Not directly, because that is determined more by the local commanders. So what does it actually mean? ...I am trying to conceptualize the answer to this question at each echelon of command. So you can see how my mind went to information flow and SNAFU's! For the record, info and SNAFU's are universal in that they apply to every echelon.

Offline A Canadian Cat

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Re: Information and SNAFU's
« Reply #5 on: October 05, 2017, 04:27:41 PM »
LOL glad you appreciated it.

I think the concept is sound and I look forward to seeing it in action. A lot of gamers are used to perfect information so the reaction will be interesting. Are there many other examples of operational level or fantasy RTS games present imperfect information to players? The system in Scourge of War Waterloo sounds pretty interesting for example.

Offline Asid

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Re: Information and SNAFU's
« Reply #6 on: October 05, 2017, 04:46:07 PM »
A lot of gamers are used to perfect information so the reaction will be interesting.

Many just want to point and click and have everything, including information readily at hand.





Are there many other examples of operational level or fantasy RTS games present imperfect information to players? The system in Scourge of War Waterloo sounds pretty interesting for example.

Campaigns on the Danube 1805 - 1809  (one of the best for FOW/Delay)
http://www.matrixgames.com/products/282/details/Campaigns.On.The.Danube

Command OPs I & II ( II the engine plus some scenarios are free)
http://www.panthergames.com/




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Offline choppinlt

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Re: Information and SNAFU's
« Reply #7 on: October 05, 2017, 06:48:12 PM »
Cat and Asid, agreed lots of gamers want perfect obedience to their plans and information. That is why I want to make this a game setting. Players can choose Full Fog meaning all information may or may not be accurate, or Partial Fog where only enemy information is in doubt. Same with SNAFU's, they can either be On or Off. Caveat..assuming the programmers can make this happen without undue effort!


Are there many other examples of operational level or fantasy RTS games present imperfect information to players? The system in Scourge of War Waterloo sounds pretty interesting for example.

Campaigns on the Danube 1805 - 1809  (one of the best for FOW/Delay)
http://www.matrixgames.com/products/282/details/Campaigns.On.The.Danube

Command OPs I & II ( II the engine plus some scenarios are free)
http://www.panthergames.com/

Cat, that is a good question. There are games that deal with fog and command delays (like Command Ops), but I am not aware of many that deal with a lack of good information from your own forces. If anyone knows of any other game that does, please let me know! As for Campaigns on the Danube I have not played that title, though it does look intriguing. Clearly information flow and reactions will happen at a much faster pace than Napoleonic time frames, though it is a great illustration of the concept I am trying to replicate.

Offline Christian Knudsen

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Re: Information and SNAFU's
« Reply #8 on: October 05, 2017, 10:33:40 PM »
This would be Awesome, but will require a deft touch and much testing, esp for balancing in an operation, as this sort of global setting tends to snowball, just like in real life (Scenario idea: June 22, '41.  You are the commander of the Soviet 10th Army...).  The challenge will be in setting the levels both in terms of starting points and ongoing deterioration so as to not make the operation essentially unwinnable given a poor/unlucky start.  I like the idea of making a slider, though.

I think this (and command delay) are great ideas, and I definitely would love to see them - but let's watch out for feature creep, as you mentioned!

Another thing that will be heavily influenced by this will be the scouting/recce/ZOC system.  On one hand, this feature may be great because it will encourage actual use of reconnaissance units to, well, reconnoiter!  But OTOH the basic info collecting and ZOC system will need a lot of tuning because of the interactions between unit experience and capability, etc, and accurate reporting, all needing to be layered by the SNAFU mechanic in order to avoid snowballing.
« Last Edit: October 05, 2017, 10:45:54 PM by Christian Knudsen »

Offline choppinlt

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Re: Information and SNAFU's
« Reply #9 on: October 06, 2017, 02:28:14 PM »
Agreed, it will require plenty of testing to make sure we get it at an acceptable level. Got anyone in mind to help with that CK?  ;)

Just to be clear command delays have always been part of the design and are seen in the current scenario...not always explicitly stated though. Fog for enemy units has also always been part of the design...it has to be for this design concept. It is my desire to reward the recon mission! As you know part of the recon mission is intel gathering, but part of that mission is screening. So movement behind a screen will be much harder to detect. So what I am talking about is to take it a step further in that all information feedback is delayed...creating fog for friendly troops. So what we as players may be seeing on the screen could be what happened a few turns ago. I think it adds to the planning and anticipation of events at the command level.

Right now when I say SNAFU effect in ToO, I am talking only about the "order" process; issuing, receipt and execution. Certainly SNAFU's happen in all facets of operations, but in terms of ToO that is my current context. That may change as we go along....

At the same time, it is imperative to remember that this is a game that needs to appeal to enough people to make it sustainable. For instance if ToO sells 5 copies I can guarantee that there will be no expansion DLC, or software support post-release, etc... So this is part of the reason I am wanting to bring this all up.

Offline Asid

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Re: Information and SNAFU's
« Reply #10 on: October 06, 2017, 03:00:31 PM »
To reach a wider audience you will have to cater for the more "casual" player as well as the grognard.

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Offline Christian Knudsen

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Re: Information and SNAFU's
« Reply #11 on: October 18, 2017, 12:50:06 AM »
Apparently we are far from the only ones thinking about these issues:

http://www.wargamer.com/articles/op-ed-we-need-friction-in-digital-wargames-too/

Offline choppinlt

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Re: Information and SNAFU's
« Reply #12 on: October 18, 2017, 04:17:38 AM »
Oooh, great find CK!  :thumbsup Thanks for sharing! My true intent has been to incorporate as much of "friction" as possible. Virtually nothing is guaranteed to work exactly how you planned it...how do you manage the chaos? Do you have a true concept of operations that you are attempting to execute, or are you just winging it? That is why I have been somewhat vague on combat "power" and assigning values. It's a computer game, so they are there! But I don't want it to turn in to a mathematical exercise for players. Yet, due to it being a computer game intended for a general audience, I feel the need to provide certain numbers to provide player context.

While i agree with the article, I also realize there are A LOT of people that have varying thresholds regarding knowledge, feedback, and control. So this is definitely something I am going to try to allow for player modification when setting up a scenario.